My Nikon D40 Camera is the third Nikon digital camera I’ve owned. I’ve only had it since May, but right now, I’m in love with it. If you don’t own a digital camera, the main reason we love a digital camera is unlimited photos at a very low price once you’ve bought the media cards. You can take the same picture of a person,object, or place many times with different light settings, different frames and later delete the ones you don’t like on your laptop.
One thing that all digital camera owner’s learn quickly is that digital cameras take a secure disk or flash card, an object that will store many photographs. We like a 1GB chip, but prefer to not fill it. The main reason is a typical CD will only hold about 750MB of data, far less than that 1 GB. Efficiently managing your photographs is something everyone begins to learn. A flash card or smart card reader typically plugs into a high speed USB port on your computer or laptop. Most don’t require any installation of software to use it, but some do. I had 3 1 GB secure disks for a two week, photo intensive trip. I nearly ran out of space, so I bought several more since they’ve been on sale. Nikon provides a cable that allows you to connect your camera to a PC, but we don’t use it. It also has a cable to download pictures to a videocamera.
Pictures are saved onto the secure disk in either NEF or JPEG formats. We usually use the Large setting which stores a 3008×2000 pixel, 38.2×25.4 cm, or 10×15 inch picture. If we want to use the picture on the internet, we typically reduce the number of pixels to 1000×700 pixels since most services usually prefer the smaller size. It also helps you retain your copyright on your photograph. You can choose to save smaller files if the quality isn’t important to you. Photo editing software is provided with the camera on a CD. One nice feature of the camera is it will tell you when you don’t have a chip and will prevent you from taking the picture. No more “I took a twenty-four photographs without any film.”
The second thing digital camera owners learn is they want to own several lithium ion batteries (Nikon EN-EL9)and a battery charger. The D40’s battery lasts much longer than the previous version on the Nikon D50. I was able to take about 300 photographs before the battery wore down, although I wasn’t using the flash. You also need a good multi-current electrical adapter for foreign travel. These might or might not work when you arrive. Therefore, having extra batteries means you don’t run out part way through your trip.
Our biggest problem (and it’s a small one) is the lens cap doesn’t attach to the camera or lens. That means you often spend time looking for it. However, it does click onto the lens with an audible sound and tends to be pretty secure, if you snap it on right.
One of the nicest features that the Nikon D40 has is almost instantaneous photo capture. You press the button on your camera just like any other camera and the image is captured. This differs from earlier cameras and from some cell phones where when you point your camera and click, it takes several seconds to collect the picture and what you thought you were aiming at has moved or disappeared.
The Nikon D40 takes changeable lenses like a typical film camera. We have a Nikon 28 to 55mm zoom lens that is good for most purposes. It allows you to zoom in within about 3 inches of a small object, and out to take a telescopic photo that isn’t quite is good as a pair of binoculars. To get that amount of magnification, we have the Nikkor 70-300mm lens with a feature that helps prevent jiggling of your camera from blurring your photos. That feature is well worth the extra dollars you pay. Many times a breeze or too much caffeine will affect your photos. You might want to review AC-Outlaw’s overview of macro lenses.
The mode dial is a rotating disk on the camera that allows you to select how your camera operates. It’s the computer that controls the shutter and the aperature. We typically keep our setting on Auto flash off mode, because it prevent the flash from going off in low light conditions. Our experience with the flash is that it often whites out the image too much and we prefer the richer natural tones. It has other preprogrammed modes for action, portrait, landscape, close ups and night portraits. The main advantage of these modes is how they affect where the camera focuses. My husband prefers a centralized pinpoint focus (another function that requires setup with several of the buttons) at the center of the camera. Once you focus by holding down the switch, that focus is maintained until you take the photograph.
When you take a picture, the photograph is displayed on the back of your camera. Buttons allow you to cycle through all the photographs on the smart card and deleted them. I don’t tend to use this. I usually automatically turn the camera off right after I take the picture.
You do have the option of overriding the automated focus and aperature settings on the camera by selecting manual mode on both the camera and the lens.
This can be handy on close ups, when you’re focusing on an item in a dense setting, if you’re focusing through a fence, etc. The camera usually chooses to focus on the closest object unless you direct it otherwise. Leilani Dawn’s article on taking excellent digital photographs has a good overview.
Overall, the Nikon D40 camera is lightweight, only a few pounds to carry and a real treat. I haven’t covered all the features, just the primary ones you might encounter. The Nikon D40 is considered the least expensive professional camera. That’s our budget.